“…and there are some treasures which remain an enigma, we know nothing of them, they lay out there, undiscovered…and take along with them some of the finest archaeologists”, concluded Prof Harrison about the attempts to uncover the lost Treasure of Dulu as they called it. There was a momentary pause in the classroom and then the students brushed it away…
“…we don’t believe this crap…”
“…all this for some extra credits?…and they say this is a unique combination of archeology & history…”
“…is this Queensland and are we in 2015, what rubbish…”
…murmured the students as they left the classroom. Two students remained seated in their place and spoke softly to each other without moving.
“Josh, you are from that place, aren’t you? do you believe the story? do you recollect any stories of the treasure…”, enquired Robin. “Shh! so much for letting you in on my background, I don’t want to talk about it and I know nothing of any treasure, I am surprised that this is recorded formally in academics!”, said Josh.
“Professor, I would like to know more about Dulu, beyond what’s written in that paper”, Robin called out to Prof Harrison as he proceeded to leave the room. “Well, I am glad you do, but I have nothing more to offer. Just that the last known person as per the records that went to Dulu and never returned was Wilson Roy, almost a hundred years ago. All we know from the last of his records that were recovered from a local library at the time pointed to a priceless treasure in the grasslands and forests. Several attempts were made until recently, with most advanced equipment to crack into the Dulu region. There are mentions of pieces of diamonds, some rocks with rich minerals and some tribal pieces of art being recovered, but nobody could get to the source. It is a dense temperate forest region, and the best teams of archaeologists and geologists couldn’t get past the fringes of Dulu”.
Josh did a motion with both his hands instinctively. “Why did you do that?”, asked Professor Harrison. “Oh it is a sign of respect in the place he comes from”, blurted Robin and bit his tongue realizing his mistake. “Interesting…and what place would that be?”, inquired Harrison. “Oh it’s nothing professor, I was just stretching my hands, Robin gets funny sometimes without reason”. Professor Harrison frowned at both and left the room.
“Do you not remember anything from Dulu? you do some weird actions sometimes, you sleep-talk a weird language, no recollection?”, pressed Robin. “I told you, most of us who were natives of Dulu left the place, we moved on, we wanted better education, we were tired of the Dulu customs, I am not sure if any more from the old tribe are out there. And I certainly have no recollection of the treasure. My grandparents never talked about it either. Although I hear them make weird sounds in sleep and they recollect some customs which they do mostly out of boredom”, Josh got up to leave.
“Care to join for a coffee?”, he waved at Robin. “Yeah! Yeah! should we go back to Dulu and check out, I mean, we need to pick our on-field assignment anyway, let’s go after the treasure!”.
“That’s precisely how they say Wilson got lost a hundred years ago, are you out of your mind? Look I know you are the only one that put up with me all these years in college despite of my idiosyncrasies and you respect me for who I am. But going back to Dulu in search of we don’t know what, is beyond crazy! the closest we can make it anyway is to the tip of Dulu forest where there used to be some scattered towns. They say only a native can make it into Dulu properly…”, paused Josh. “And so I am asking one”, smiled Robin.
“I can’t believe I got fooled into joining you on this madness”, said Josh as they drank the hot tea served by the inn keeper of the village. The kerosene lamp gave out a dim light through the soot clad glass. “I was persuasive, at least I thought your grandparents were happy, although they didn’t admit it… nice tea..”, Robin lifted the crooked steel glass and bowed down to the inn keeper. She barely smiled in response.
“Don’t worry, we will crack the treasure, even otherwise, this place has been the entry point for all the archaeologists and other scientists, we will have enough to make our thesis…well who is that…”, remarked Robin as they both watched an old looking but slender and strong man enter the inn in a hurry. Some of the other inhabitants stood up in respect, but he waived them off to sit. “Why isn’t he wearing boots in this harsh weather!”, remarked Robin. He handed over what appeared to be some forest roots and berries and they overheard him speak with the innkeeper, “twice a day, it won’t work if you don’t believe in it, you could take him to the other doctors if you wish, then don’t call for me again”, he hurried out into the lashing rain and they could see him move with ease and disappear in no time.
“Who is he madam?” Robin asked the innkeeper. “A friend of ours, no one knows where he lives, some say he is the last known resident of Dulu! We call out for him when we need. My grandson is very sick, he brought me some medicines from the forest. He comes to play with the village kids sometimes and tells them stories, and disappears back into the forest”, she said.
“But why are you here, in this small village? The nearest town is not so far off, and you have good hospitals there, and better means of living”, asked Josh. “Born here, we die here”, she frowned at Josh and left their table. “You did it again, your arms went up and down, as if you saluted her, why do you do that?”, remarked Robin. “I don’t know! its instinctive”.
The wannabe archaeologists wandered the area and tried to interact with the locals to find some clues to the treasure. There were few more sightings of the mysterious old man when he appeared to talk to the children of the bordering villages of the region, sometimes he would get fresh fruit and other “useful stuff” to the locals. Robin had his chance when the old man came back to the inn to check on the inn-keepers grandson. “Sir, we have come from the university, on our field work, to discover the treasure of Dulu? Do you live in the forest? Can you please help us?”. In response, the old man smiled and spoke in a strange language all the time making signs with his hands. “You are not the first on the quest, where is your equipment? no funding?”, he smiled and observed Josh repeat one of the signs instinctively, “…interesting you are a Duluai…”, and left the place.
“What was that? what does it mean?”, Robin asked loudly. “It means ‘a boy of Dulu'”, said the inn-keeper who was watching the interaction. “See! I told you, it takes a native to crack this, come on”, Robin tugged at Josh and ran after the old man. He was already at the edge of the forest and quickly disappeared, while the two boys ran at their top speed to catch up with him. “You cannot survive the night without the knowledge of the forest”, shouted the inn-keeper from behind. “I am not giving up today, let’s find him Josh”.
Very soon both of them found themselves quite away from the village and lost in the forest. However Josh seemed oddly comfortable, as if his native instincts have turned themselves on in this habitat. “Feels like I know the place, although I swear to you, I have never been here before”, he said and slowly lead the way. The forest floor was harsh with dense shrubs and overgrown ferns, thorny cactus like plants, red oaks and pines, and strange looking rocks. Robin had this weird feeling that some of the plants stood out like they are making a sign with their branches. “A few kilometers north from here, we should hit water”, professed Josh. “What! where did that come from? did you develop some extra sensory abilities around here? don’t spook me out Josh”, cried Robin. “I don’t know!”, he did a hand movement. After a few more hours Robin started to get extremely weak and delirious. “I am seeing fairies I think”, he giggled. “Keep moving Rob, we are very close”
They trudged along and soon enough hit what appeared to be a small fresh water lake with the sound of a whooshing waterfall nearby. “Are those fairies too? or monsters?”, Robin kept gazing at them and talking nonstop. “Quiet!”, said Josh and did a sign with his hands and bowed to the approaching young man. “I swear I saw this guy somewhere”, said Robin again.
“You two stubborn kids! How did you make it this far, the forest could have killed you by night, ahha the Duluai…here tell your friend to chew this quickly…”, he gave some red leaves for Robin to eat. “Your eyes, Roy! are you!!! or his son?”, Robin almost yelled as the leaves brought him back to normalcy. “Silence! you will disturb the forest, take to that corner and rest, we will speak tomorrow”, he said and left.
“Several attempts were made to discover the treasure of Dulu over the past centuries”, said the young man. ‘I actually think he might be in his late thirties’, remarked Robin later privately to Josh. “Many smart archeologists and scientists with advanced equipment, even with drone surveillance and lasers shooting at the forest bed”, he paused and smiled. “But there is a treasure right? There are some sightings of rare metals, and some diamonds even”, interrupted Robin. Josh did a hand movement which appeared as if he signalled Robin to shut up. “You are a true descendant Duluai, it is coming to you slowly”, Josh heard the young man saying. “What did he tell you, what language was that”, asked Robin. “What you didn’t understand what he just said, didn’t he speak English?”, asked Josh. “No I did not Duluai, I spoke your native tongue, the outsider will not get it”, again the young man replied in the strange language.
“Please, speak in English, we want to uncover the treasure and enlighten the world, we do not want it”, pleaded Robin. “You cannot uncover the treasure by being who you are, you need to become one with the place, and learn the Dulu spirit. Else you will forget everything I tell you once you leave the forest”, smiled the young man. “What about Josh, he is a native, would he remember?”, asked Robin. “He would if he chooses to remain true to Dulu. There is some part of him that retained that spirit and helped him find his way back here, else the forest would have rejected both of you and lead you into some deadly trap”.
“Do you know what happened to Wilson Roy and the other archaeologists that came by, what is the story of Dulu?”, asked Josh.
“I am bound by the land to tell the story when someone from this place asks me. So I will tell you Josh. Wilson Roy came here almost a hundred years ago with a large team and a lot of equipment. There were others too, and their purpose was to uncover the treasure of Dulu. They spent a lot of time taking samples and studying the earth. They even tried to lure the natives of Dulu with gifts and comforts and better life. Some of the natives fell for it and left, but once they decided to leave, they couldn’t help the explorers understand Dulu anymore. So the place remained an enigma for a long time. While the others tried and left, Wilson Roy was the stubborn one, he arranged for his living in the bordering village from where you two came, and tried making expeditions on his own into the forest. He used to make notes of such expeditions and post it in the nearby libraries, once in a while he would find an odd stone, a diamond and that was enough for more explorers to pour in”, the young man paused.
“And they repeated the process – take samples, lure the natives, treat them like they are some strange animals and use them to get to what they thought was the treasure. It took a couple of years or so for Wilson to realize that he was doing it all wrong…”, he paused again and Robin noticed that he was making some hand signs to Josh and Josh responded likewise. “What happened! what did Wilson do differently?”, asked Robin.
“He realized that the knowledge of the treasure cannot be had by drawing the natives out and making them something they are not, but by learning their language, by treating them with respect. But it was not easy. The natives were not easy to gain trust of. It took another couple of years of persistence and pleading before he was accepted into the tribe and passed the test of Dulu”, said the young man.
“So that was it, was it so simple? learn the language, pass the test and find the treasure! Doesn’t seem so hard, what’s the test?”, asked Robin.
“To drink from that lake. Once you are allowed to learn the Dulu and their ways, the natives will allow you to drink from that spring, and if there is any malicious intent, the lake takes away the spirit of Dulu, the person forgets everything and gets thrown out of the forest”, smiled the young man.
“Ah! that’s why no one knows what the treasure really is?”, enquired Robin. “Yes, several came, very few realized the source of knowledge and out of those that did and tried, none succeeded. But Wilson succeeded and he chose to become one with the natives, that’s why he didn’t come back to your world”.
“And we think we are advanced and smart and treat those, for instance, those who don’t speak even good English as idiots!”, remarked Robin. “But you were always different Rob, you accepted me for who I am. You saw sense in all my weirdness”, Josh put his hand on Robin’s shoulder.
“But why did the natives leave? There are so few of you now! Why did my grandparents leave?”, asked Josh. “Lack of belief in their true nature, someone comes and tells you that you are a ‘root-fruit-eating-stupid-tribal’ and they believed so. Some got lured by others, promise of ‘a-better-life’ outside, many reasons. Sticking to one’s roots seems to get put to test once in a while in history. Why did you come back Josh?”, asked the young man.
“Due to Rob, he pulled me, but now that I am here, I feel I belong here. Will I forget everything I learnt outside if I decide to stay here or vice-versa?”, asked Josh. “That depends, you can remain true to Dulu no matter where you are, and be a part of it. And you are a fine example of that fact. Don’t be ashamed of who you are at the core, and always respect others. But of course there are benefits of staying here”, the young man chuckled.
“We are leaving without finding out what the treasure of Dulu is all about, I feel so disappointed after coming this far”, remarked Robin as they were lead to the edge of the forest by the young man the next day. As Josh and Robin walked a few paces out of the forest, they heard the voice of the old man they met at the inn a few days ago, “Oh I am sure Josh understands what the treasure is all about by the time we part ways”. They turned around to see the old man in place of the young one who was with them all along. “The farther I go from the forest, the older I get”, he smiled.
“Wilson Roy! This really is you”, cried Robin. “Yes sirs! and Robin you will forget all of this soon. Josh you will too, if you decide to harm Dulu in any way or part ways with the spirit of Dulu”, said Wilson.
“I will bring back my grandparents here, they will be so happy. Thank you for sharing your story sir – there is a great lesson for us all – one gets to the real treasure hidden beneath someone by learning to speak their language and truly thinking good of them, and not by intelligence, deceit, or even advanced methods. We miss this simple lesson in our daily affairs and draw comparison, contrast and conceit”, he said.
“And some hidden treasures…ahem…talents of people are never discovered due to lack of proper attempts…speaking the right language with them, I am glad I didn’t give up on you Josh”, said Robin.
“True Rob. It would have saved years of labor and cost if only the smart explorers realized this. Proud to be a Duluai”, said Josh as they both bid farewell to Wilson and watched him disappear into the forest.